by Roger S NelsonThis is the first is a series humorous of articles I wrote for the Chainwheel Chatter in 2002, the newsletter of the Tri-County Bicycle Association in Lansing, Michigan.
Having owned and ridden a tandem for several years now, I thought I'd share some of my experiences with the club. One of the things about being on a tandem is that two people work together as a team, and it seems logical that good teams communicate. When I first got my tandem, I asked some other tandem riders how they communicate, and they looked at me like I was crazy, so what I'm going to share with you is from my own experience and probably not what other people do. If, however, you're one of those people who actually try to communicate on your tandem, I'd love to hear from you.
The first problem of talking on the tandem is wind noise, same as with a single bike. The wind rushing in your ears drowns out certain consonant sounds, like s, p, k, t, b, and p. All you tend to hear is just the vowels. Talking on a tandem is a pretty unique situation, two people having a conversation but neither being able to see the others face. Since my ears are focused ahead and I can't see my stoker's facial expression or read her lips, it makes it extra hard to hear over the wind noise. Likewise, when I speak, my voice is projected ahead and my stoker can't see my face either, so it's easy to misunderstand. Picture this.
I got an old horn on my bike from my stoker, De Anna, since she thought it was cute. It's really a funny sounding horn, it almost sounds like a ducks quack. Well, not really, but if you use your imagination there is some similarity. It attracts a lot of attention and smiles as she honks at people along the road or other other bikers. But sometimes I like her to honk at someone in the road ahead of us so they are aware we are coming and don't inadvertently veer in front of us as we're trying to go by. The stoker's view of the road ahead is obstructed by yours truly, so De Anna can't see what's coming ahead and I have to tell her to honk. We were riding on SummerTour this year and there were some bikers ahead who were going way slow and weaving around a little, they didn't seem to be paying a lot of attention to those behind them. So I said, "Horn."
She thought I said "More" which was our way of saying "Pedal a little harder." On a scale of one to five, one being real easy pedaling and five being a sprint, "more" means move it up one. So she started pedaling harder, which meant we were coming up on the riders even quicker and they still didn't know we were there.
OK. How else could I express myself? Being a crossword puzzle worker, I could come up with other words. "Honk," I said.
I think she thought I groaned. "What's the matter?" she asked.
I had time for one more try. "Beep," I said.
She asked me, "What's wrong with your knee?"
By now we were passing the bikers, fortunately there was no collision. As we went by, then she saw the bikers and honked.
Ever wonder why riders tell their horse "Haw" and "Gee" instead of "Left" and "Right". Maybe code words just work better.
Today we did the WOW ride and we did come up with a code word. So far it seems to be working. "Quack". Who woulda thought? I bet that doesn't show up in a crossword puzzle. The funny thing is, we "quacked" at someone were we passing today as we were going by a wooded area and some bird in the woods quacked back at us. I wonder if it was thinking about passing us.